Monday Morning Provisional: Appreciating Phil Mickelson’s Genius While He’s Here

Phil Mickelson is a golfing treasure and not only from a purely talent-based perspective. Over the course of the left hander’s 24-year professional career, Mickelson has made golf fans around the world wow and wince, depending on which way the wind was blowing that day. And despite never truly ever reigning supreme in the game, Mickelson has made following, watching and covering the sport more fun for all involved.

After Rickie Fowler’s win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week, a to-be-expected storyline emerged when the win moved the 27 year old into fourth in the Official World Golf Rankings. The much ballyhooed new version of golf’s ‘Big Three’ had been a popular storyline to finish out the 2015 PGA Tour season and the opportunity to lump Fowler into the group — likely the most recognizable and marketable player in the foursome — was dangling too low not to grab.

The immediate aftermath of the victory saw a line drawn in the sand between the ‘Big/Fab Four’ truthers and, in an admittedly simplistic categorization, those who said a nice win was just that, it wasn’t a major. Now, let’s be clear: the grouping of two, three, four or more players into their own tier of supremacy does nothing except pass the time between Sunday evenings and Thursday mornings. Fowler being involved in that conversation is fun water cooler fodder, but it has absolutely no bearing on what transpires on the course. 

Chris Solomon of (@NoLayingUp) wrote a nice piece for SB Nation taking a firm stance in the “Fowler’s not in the Big Four conversation” camp, but the underlying message of the story was that instead of feeling the need to put a label on everything right this very second, we should take a step back and enjoy what’s unfolding before us.

Which brings us back to Phil Mickelson. 

At 45 years of age and making nearly that number in millions of dollars each year, Mickelson’s star is not much longer for the Tour at this point. Yet, he still has that mad scientist/creative genius in him, which allows him to not only get by against guys near the top of the world rankings that are literally half his age, but give the opportunity to flourish and even win. And he does it with a style and flair that are so uncommon among the rank and file of the PGA Tour.

While Tiger Woods basically created a new breed of player who are better physically and perhaps more adept at winning earlier in their careers, Mickelson remains a true authentic. His brand of creativity cannot be replicated; it’s inherent. And while the following strokes of Phil’s genius came en route to a missed cut (which is as Phil as it gets), they prove that Mickelson thinks on a different wavelength than most everyone else on Tour.

Those three shots occurred over the course of six holes, but perfectly encapsulate what it’s like to watch Mickelson play a round of golf: never conventional and never boring. 

Phil Mickelson is a golfing treasure and simply, a pleasure to watch. Let’s sit back and enjoy the genius at work while we still can.